hey,... i'm in exactly the same situation as you... bought my inspiron 1525 from the US and now i'm studying abroad in the uk for the year (i got the laptop in august 08) and it overheats and shuts down.
Here's the thing. My previous laptop (shitty Toshiba Satellite did the same thing only worse so I had to have the fans replaced) so I knew no to use it in bed/on the couch etc. It was always on my desk. Sooo... with all this previous knowledge... I decided about 3 months ago when it last shut down that I would stick something under it, in the back, so that air could pass between it and the desk. And that seemed to work perfectly until today, when it overheated and shut down WHILE elevated on the book thing. I'm so exasperated. What does it take, or how much does it cost to get a laptop that doesn't have this problem?? At this point i'll pay anything I only got this one because I thought it was going to be loads better than my old Toshiba.
Oh and don't you think the mouse pad is a bit weird? after a while of researching a paper online, say, my finger gets kinda sore from dragging over it. This never happened before w/ my old one. Is it just me or is this odd?